Time For You Features

The Joyful Wisdom in Living Contentment: Giving Thanks

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By Carole Carson
Special  to NurseZone

November 24, 2010 - Reading in the living room, I was enchanted by the ideas expressed by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche in his book Joyful Wisdom: Embracing Change and Finding Freedom. (I would have read more, but my husband had the television remote control and switched on the football game.)

Before closing the book, though, I caught a glimpse of the possibility of living on a day-to-day basis with contentment and joy, free from anxiety or stressful worries about the future. The notion stuck in my head. What if I lived every moment in a state of contentedness, no matter what my circumstances? What if I could find the sacred in the ordinary? In my friends and family, in my backyard?

I would have to detach my feelings from the outcome in any particular scenario. And I would need to actively express thanks or a sense of gratitude for the experiences available in each moment and with each breath I took.

When I tried to practice this philosophy, I discovered I am not that enlightened. I am, however, able to find moments when I experience joy and contentment. And what better time to practice this skill than on Thanksgiving?

Here are my resolutions for increasing the contentment I experience each day:

1. Write a thank-you report. For me, writing about experiences always makes them more real, more concrete. In the past, I’ve mentally noted items I am grateful for. Going forward, I need to begin describing them on paper once or twice a week.

First on my list will be a thank-you to my body for being responsive to good nutrition and regular exercise. Having abused it for many years, I am deeply appreciative of the good health I enjoy today.

2. Look for the silver lining. When unforeseen events interrupt my plans, I struggle to see through my cloud of disappointment. Finding a benefit isn’t easy. But if I am willing to engage the question of how I can best adapt to the new circumstances, something positive emerges. Usually I can discover an equally good or even better path to follow.

I’ve worked hard to acquire this skill. For example, when I’ve let a few extra pounds slip on, I am grateful for the gentle whisper telling me to get back on track. Without that internal mechanism, I might keep gaining.

3. Give thanks regularly and repeatedly to the people around me. My husband faithfully takes out the garbage once a week. Watching him carry out the garbage this morning, I realized that I’ve never thanked him for his conscientiousness in performing this unglamorous but necessary task. I need to be more expressive for all of the big and little things that are done for me throughout each day and take nothing for granted.

It is easy to fall into the trap of being self-critical when you are a self-improvement junkie like me. (I’m a sucker for anything involving steps and tips, such as three steps to fixing your marriage or seven tips on managing your clutter.) In this reality, I can never measure up.

Yongey Mingyur encourages us to take the opposite point of view and become generous and appreciative of the wonderful goodness in our own lives and the gifts that others give us daily. He also encourages us to appreciate awareness, wherever that awareness leads.

When I nourish myself in this way, I don’t need to nourish my body by stuffing it with food. And I can’t imagine a better, more satisfying strategy for getting through the holidays!

I hope you’ll join me in making this holiday one filled with many thanksgivings.


About the Author:

Carole Carson is the author of From Fat to Fit: Turn Yourself into a Weapon of Mass Reduction and the national coach for the AARP Fat 2 Fit online community. Visit www.fromfat2fit.com for more information.